640.0031/93a: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in the Netherlands (Emmet)

10. Please call on Premier Colijn immediately and, after conveying to him my heartiest greetings, read to him the following personal message which of course is not to be laid before the Conference:

“I have noted with great interest the convocation on your initiation of a conference of experts of several neighboring governments favoring liberal trade policies to consider what contribution it may be feasible for them jointly to make to general economic appeasement by the removal of barriers to international trade. Such initiatives for governments to consider their foreign trade policy on a broader basis than that of the immediate individual interest of each country are a helpful approach to the problem of the maintenance of peace, which has recently also been the subject of a conference of the American governments at Buenos Aires.4 I, therefore, take the occasion to express the hope and sympathy with which this Government views the labors of the conference which you have convened.

“I have also noted that press dispatches quote the following passage from your address before the opening session of the conference:5

‘The most-favored-nation clause, although beneficial in many respects, is sometimes an impediment to the removal of trade barriers between countries which wish to do so but are prevented by the existing application of the clause. It may therefore be necessary for us to contemplate the possibility of a new interpretation of the most-favored-nation clause in commercial treaties.’

“If this statement as reported is correct, I am very anxious to know just what type of modification in the interpretation of the most-favored-nation clause you have in mind. In this connection, I venture, in a purely personal way, to make the following comment relative to the most-favored-nation principle: The unconditional form of the favored-nation policy alone offers the rule of equality instead of the rule of discrimination. Is there not serious danger that if the unconditional form of the favored-nation policy is materially modified, the integrity of the principle of equal treatment will be destroyed and consequently the principle itself ignored, while nations lapse back into the narrow policy of cut-throat bilateral trading alone, as exists between so many countries today?

“This was the consideration which moved the twenty-one American nations at their recent Conference at Buenos Aires to adopt a Resolution reaffirming their conviction that ‘the principle of equality of treatment stands and must continue to stand as the basis of all acceptable commercial policy.’ While recognizing that in the pursuit of this vitally important objective some nations may have to make minor exceptions or special qualifications, the Conference was unanimously [Page 828] and emphatically of the opinion that exceptions and qualifications of this sort should be of such a nature as not to discredit or impair the general rule of equality of treatment.

“My principal purpose in thus communicating with you at this time is to call attention to the attitude adopted by the twenty-one nations at Buenos Aires, which envisages an objective, common not only to them but also to many nations in Europe and elsewhere as an indispensable factor in any successful attack upon the excesses in the existing world trade barrier situation. I am convinced that similar re-affirmation of the principle of equal treatment as the basis of constructive commercial policy by such groups of nations as those represented in your conference would have a great effect in advancing everywhere a liberalized economic program designed to remove excessive trade barriers and to restore fair trade methods and practices as fully as possible.”

  1. See Foreign Relations, 1936, vol. v, pp. 3 ff.
  2. For partial text of speech, see the New York Times, March 4, 1937, p. 17, col. 4.